Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Give Thanks

I usually dedicate my blog to subjects about writing but today is too special. No one gets through this life without lose, sadness and disappointments. If we're lucky, we have people around us to remind us of happiness, successes and what we still have no matter how much we've lost. There are so many things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for my faith, which I seldom mention online, that has helped me sleep many nights. I'm thankful that I live in the USA where I have the freedom to work, to criticize our politicians, and where I believe there is a chance for my children to thrive. Though that one had worried me more in the past year than ever before. I'm thankful for the close family I grew up in and for the one I've made with my husband. I have two wonderful stepsons, three sons of my own and a daughter. With the beloved extras they bring with them, we'll have a full house today. And I'm thankful we'll be warm and have lots of food. I'm thankful for the friends I have, in person friends and online friends.

I've been a little frustrated lately with something in my writing career, but for today, everything I have that isn't about writing is more then enough. I'm happy and contented. On the first Thanksgiving, they were thankful for so what would seem like so little today. But it was enough. I hope you all have enough to be content and thankful today. And that you get a nap. God bless all of you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

When You're Famous...

I recently participated in an online class about self promotion and the use of social media to do so. What did I learn? Not that I'm not really good at it. I almost never ask anyone to mention my books, cover reveals or releases. Though I am deeply grateful that some of my friends do. I don't know what I don't ask, something in my upbringing, because I like doing the same thing for other people.

Touting my books on twitter or Facebook isn't in my comfort zone though in this class I took, the message was to hit those venues really hard and often with promotion. So I try to do a little. I wouldn't miss tweeting or updating my status on Facebook of those two sites disappeared suddenly.

Blogging might be the only social media I would miss if I suddenly stopped. Though I have family I would keep up with on Facebook. No tweeting ever again for me. And that brought me to an article I read about a famous author who stayed completely out of the public eye. He avoided all interaction with his readers and fans. He was very, very successful, beyond even what I've dream of.

So my question in this short post, if you were really famous would you quit promoting online? Would you stay in touch with fans you've met on Facebook or Twitter? Would you put yourself out there with appearances and readings? Or would you stay at home, doing nothing but writing and reading your reviews?

If you want to touch base with me on those media spots I avoid most of the time. Here's my Facebook page and here I am on Twitter. Maybe I'll see you there.

Friday, November 22, 2013


What writer doesn't want to see their names one of those iconic bestseller's list? New York Times or the USA Today? Wouldn't it be wonderful? What does it mean to you as a writer? What resources are used to determine those rankings?

I did some research on this and let me put it this way. It's complicated. Those two big name lists figure their rankings differently which is why their lists don't always match. This post would get very long even if I wrote about in even the most general terms. The USA Today lists seems to take ebook sales into account more but from my research its seems there are some mysteries involved in how exactly the numbers are arrived at. But one thing for certain about both lists. They measure the sales for one week, as one source called it, the velocity of sales.

For instance, a highly promoted book might sell like crazy on its release date. But if poor reviews come in the sales might drop off sharply. So a book that never makes the top of the lists but sells steadily over a period of time may out sell and out earn a book that hit the top ten for a week or two.

Many publishers, like mine at New Concepts, have a bestsellers list on their website. New Concepts sell a lot of books directly from their website which not all publisher do, so being on their list helps with sales.

And what talk of bestselling numbers would be complete without talking about Amazon ranking? Being on one of their top 100 lists gives an author a reason to tweet about. Getting one book on the top will lead readers to other of the author's books.

Have you been on a bestseller list? Do you buy books that are recommended by such lists? Have you ever investigated how those lists are determined?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Serious Series Staying Power

There are different ways to do series. Some suspense and mystery writers have central characters, detectives or investigators, who solve the crime of the particular novel. Some romance novelists base a series on a particular town and focus each novel on a different couple within the unique and attractive setting. When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, usually the series is bound together by a created world or universe. Sometimes the same characters appear in each novel though not always.

It's up to the writer to find the right technique to bring readers back for more. I read a lot of suspense and mystery. Jonathan Kellerman brings me back for more and more in his Alex Delaware series because the protagonists are so interesting and each novel has complex psychological mysteries. I can seldom figure out the twists when they come. Science fiction writer Alex J. Cavanaugh used a complex, interesting character as a continuing thread in his Casa... Series and drew readers back because they wanted to know the rest of the story about that central character.

Sometimes romance novelists introduce a secondary character in the first book of a series, making the character interesting enough for the reader to care about them. But then the writer sets the secondary's story aside, hoping the reader will want to know what happened to him or her and thus buy the next book. I used this technique in my most recent romance series. In The Marine's Queen, Vin, a secondary character suffers a tragic loss and goes off on his own. The book ends with his fate unknown. Much to my delight, a few readers of The Marine's Queen emailed me and asked me if I intended to write Vin's story.

In fantasy series and other suspense novels, though there might be a pause in the action at the end of each novel, the writer needs to leave unanswered questions or unresolved dangers. With each book, the stakes have to grow in importance and the road to solve the problems or the mystery has to grow steeper. The world can't be saved or the evil completely defeated until the last book in the series.

In my most recent fantasy series, The Morbunda Saga, the war is just getting started in First Dragon, the kickoff novel. Disasters and losses pile up as I introduce the reader to the Morbunda fantasy world. The complexities of the characters are revealed over the course of the novel. Hopefully readers will want to know what happens next.

What techniques work best for keeping you involved in a series? What tantalizing hooks do you use to keep a series successful? What series of books have you really enjoyed as a reader?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sharp as a Bowling Ball

Sharp as a bowling ball. My husband uses that expression a lot, usually when teasing one of our kids when they've done or said something exhibiting little of the good sense we know they have. Most of the time.

But I read a disturbing article while I was doing some research for this post that our brains will start to slow down at age 30 if we don't keep it young. I was only looking for research to backup what I thought I already knew about the brain, but I didn't know that. I'm sure lots of the readers of this blog are over that bench mark.

So let's think about brain food. What should you eat to provide the best nutrition for a healthy brain. Blueberries in any form. Wild salmon for those important omega-3s. Nuts and seeds for the vitamin E. Avocados which are nearly as good as blueberries. Add some whole grains and you're eating lots of foods to keep the gears turning. Drink green tea once per day though a cup of any kind of tea can benefit. And keep cholesterol levels down.

Physical exercise has been proven to improve brain function. Combination workouts with weights and aerobic components are best. Watch nature documentaries if you're going to watch TV. Watching such shows are also likely to reduce stress. There are video and computer games designed specifically to stimulate the mind and keep it sparking. Perhaps you've heard by now that good oral health is important for good cardiovascular health, the inflammation issue, but it also is important for good brain health. I picked some of this out of this article by the Alliance for Aging Research.

Reading has long been an ingredient in keeping the mind sharp and some recommend crossword puzzles, but some recent studies show that more areas of the brain are stimulated by writing by hand than either of those activities. So put some pen to paper and keep the neurons firing. Or really challenge your brain and write with your non dominant hand.

Does your family use any silly sayings like my husband if fond of? What healthy brain habits do you practice?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Stress Kills ... Creativity

Recently I read many blog posts from writers who are dealing with difficulties, some of the personal and some of the professional kind. You can probably think of three or four people you know from blogging right off the top of your head who are dealing with a health issue of their own, an ill family member or worse. Some have had to seek different employment that interferes with their writing. Some are dealing with some stress that doesn't have a terrible source like a new child. Even success creates its own breed of stress such as promotion, checking those sales numbers, facing the reviews, and trying to write the next novel and make it better than the one before.

Most people know how bad stress can be for your physical and emotional health, but it also affect your creative abilities. A number of articles I read put forth the idea that stress strikes us with tunnel-vision. Stress thinking is narrowed thinking.

Though lots of people believe that writing out feelings help with stress, that same stress might make it impossible for a fiction writer to work through a scene. The creativity takes a hike when the blood pressure is up.

Now Dr. Susan here doesn't offer a cure for when stress bogs down your writing output. I can only repeat the known courses of action. Physical exercise is a proven reducer of stress symptoms. Talking to someone or writing out the problems. And don't beat yourself up if your creative output drops off doing stressful periods. It's to be expected because you're human.

How do you deal with your stress? Have you have a time when you just couldn't work on your writing because of what life threw at you?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Creating a Dragon Mythology

When the idea for a dragon fantasy series came to me, the first thing I did was decide what kind of dragon would be in my novel. What powers would he have? What would he look like? What would he eat? What was his temperament? How intelligent would he be? What kind of moral and ethical ideas would drive his behavior?

I've read some dragon novels, many of them where the dragons worked in concert with humans, letting riders on their backs or somehow sharing magic with humans. Of course, there's the Smaug from The Hobbit and his greed and cleverness. Check out Wikipedia's long list of dragons and their descriptions. Dragon myths have been with us for a long time. They're found in the tales of ancient Greece. Stories of dragons have been interlaced with other legends in many cultures for over four thousand years. There are websites that described facts about dragons as if they're real creatures alive in our world today. I won't even mention dragons in the gaming world.

But I want my dragon, Kerik, to be unique. I made Kerik smart and armed him with the memories of his ancestors. He understands more of war than any human general with the experience he can call on. He's secretive, mostly to preserve his own life. He doesn't want to share anything with humans that could be used against him. He doesn't trust humans, but against his dragon nature he cares for some of them. And how he looks? He's black with golden eyes and a graceful body. I don't want to give away more of his secrets. You'll have to read the book but you can see what he looks like. Taria Reed at Crescent Moon Press caught him perfectly.

Have you ever created your own mythology about a land or a creature? Are you looking forward to The Desolation of Smaug? Any favorite dragon myths come to mind?
You can find First Dragon at:
Amazon Print
Amazon Kindle
B&N Print
Nook coming soon.
Add First Dragon to Goodreads List

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Few Good Men

I've always loved Veteran's Day. When I was a child and lived a bit north of where I am now, I always marked it as the day we would definitely have snow by. Now that I'm old enough to not love snow quite so much, I don't care about that marker. Now I love the holiday for what it is. A time to thank and remember those who have served the country.

Please check out my post on IWSG blog about ways we can honor them and support some great causes. My father has been gone for almost twenty years. He died a relatively young man after his second bout of cancer. Cancers I really believe resulted from his service in Japan after the bombs. Like so many men of his time, he signed up after Pearl Harbor and went off to defend his home and the young wife he left behind. I'm so grateful he came back.
My dad on the right

My father never spoke of the war except when he was with his older brother, who had also served. My uncle was a hero at the Battle of the Bulge and had many medals. My father and uncle never attended church though they were both very religious men. My uncle would visit my dad on Sunday mornings when everyone else was at church. Except for a little girl who would pretend she was sick every once in a while so she could stay home and listen to their stories. They were amazing remembrances of heroism, fear and the true chaos of war.

We're often told to write what we know. I know I've met real heroes. Men who fought because they must. If I could capture the humble tones in their voices as they spoke of bravery, regret and sorrow and the true costs of war, I'm sure I would be a bestseller. If I could write of such heroes, farmers, factory workers, family men, who risked everything to fight, what a book that would be.

How do you honor on this day? Have you met real heroes? Did you visit IWSG yet?

Please take an extra moment today to visit Kyra Lennon. Many of you have heard of the passing of Andrew, fellow blogger, Nick Wilford, stepson. Kyra is organizing a way to honor Andrew during this difficult time for the family.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oh, How I Miss You, Stephen

Another clever idea from some of the wonderful, ambitious bloggers in my sphere of cyberspace. Alex Cavanaugh, Andrew Leon, and Matthew MacNish organized this blogfest where one can mention a blogger they've missed or would miss if they should drop out of this strange blogging life.

I don't remember how I first met Stephen Tremp, but I immediately began following his blog for a number of reasons. First of all, he often writes about science, sharing facts in ways anyone can understand without oversimplifying things. Also, he writes action filled suspense which I like to read. Add to that how Stephen is a very generous, kind person. He's also a committed family man and that's a fine quality in a person. I've missed Stephen's blog posts a lot lately. His blog moved around for a bit and somehow I kept overlooking his new residence when I visited blogs and I would only find him on occasion. I think I have finally put his blog back on my sidebar, I think, and removed his old address. I've missed him, but I'm not missing him anymore.

Did you check out the other participants in this blog hop? You might meet some people you want to never miss again. Do you know Stephen?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG: The Writing Life

Much thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for being the creative mastermind of this wonderful, very active group called the Insecure Writer's Support Group. You'll find lots of support, advice and the chance to offer support to other writers. Also, you can join the blog or facebook group belonging to the IWSG.

Most writers also hold days jobs, busy earning money to pay the bills. A few of my writer friends are stay at home moms which is a very demanding job choice. I've been fortunate to take on the title of full time writer for the last few months. It's the best job I've ever had. And like most careers, the longer I'm at it, the better I get at it. I'm not talking about my writing, though I hope it is continually improving.

One thing I've learned to do is set personal goals. I've never participated in NaNo and probably never will, but I set writing goals for each week and determine an end date for each project. Sometimes a deadline from one of my editors determines my goal. Having a very specific goal insures I'll sit down and write because that is my job.

I've learned that despite all the actual time I get for writing, I can still resent interruptions. But I've also learned to fit many other chores in while I'm writing. I can toss a load of laundry over to the dryer at the end of a page. I run the vacuum when I'm working through a scene that's giving me fits. I ponder my promotional efforts while I'm jogging. And I have all day.

When I first started writing and dreamed of doing it full time, I entertained fantasies of what that would be like. A pot of tea at my elbow, just me and the computer, perhaps in a cozy cottage in the woods with gardens of flowers lining the bricked patio. Well the pot of tea sometimes sits on my desk. But the flowers surrounding my sprawling country home need weeding. And my office sometimes looks like a bus depot there are so many people walking through. But it's still wonderful.

What expectations or dreams did you have of the writing life that have not come true or that have? Is it better than you hoped or hasn't it measured up to those early fantasies? Do you set personal goals or do you prefer something like NaNo that challenges you to  a level of achievement? Have you visited other IWSGers? Did you check out the IWSG blog?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dragonfly Warrior by Jay Noel

You all know I love dragons but today I'm using my blog to introduce Jay Noel's upcoming release. I still haven't figured out if dragonflies are actually creatures who dared to drink the blood of dragons like horseflies bite horses. Dragonflies are beautiful, exotic looking insects though and a warrior named after them really catches my interest. And steampunk  in the wild west is one of my favorites. Check out Jay's blurb and add this one to your wish list.

Dragonfly Warrior Blurb:
The Mechanica Wars: Savage Machines Are Afoot...
At the age of twenty, Kanze Zenjiro's bloody footprints mark the bodies of those who stood in his way to protect the throne of Nihon. Now, the tyrannical Iberian Empire is bent on destroying his kingdom, and they send their steam-powered giants and iron spiders against him.
Zen embarks on a quest that takes him on the most dangerous journey of his life. To succeed, Zen must live up to his nickname, the Dragonfly Warrior, and kill all his enemies with only a sword and a pair of six-guns. He is called upon to somehow survive a test of faith and loyalty in a world so cruel and merciless, it borders on madness.

Book Information: Dragonfly Warrior is a steampunk adventure like no other. It's a dynamic mix of Asian and European mythology, the Wild West, martial arts, traditional fantasy, and high powered steam action that will keep you turning the pages.
Dragonfly Warrior is the first book of The Mechanica Wars, and will debut on January 6, 2014.

Author Bio:
After doing some freelance writing and editing for more than a dozen years, Jay decided to stop procrastinating and pursue his dream of being a novelist. He's been blogging for over eight years, and even had a comedy podcast syndicated all over the internet. All of that was fun, but all the steampunk-inspired stories in his head just wouldn't leave him alone. Jay spends his days working in medical sales, but he can be found toiling over his laptop late at night when all is quiet.
He draws inspiration from all over: H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, and Isaac Asimov.

And Jay loves cookies.
Jay on Facebook
Jay's book is out in January, a perfect time to add it to your new tablet or ereader you're getting for Christmas. His cover caught the eye of my youngest son. I'm always looking for reads for him.
Have you seen Jay's cover elsewhere in the last week? Can you believe he has time to write with everything else he does? Have you liked his facebook page and followed him on twitter yet?
Don't forget IWSG tomorrow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

That's a Wrap

My daughter and I have had some great conversations over the years about books and movies. Sometimes we're on the exact same wavelength and enjoy the ending of a movie or series and sometimes we have greatly varied levels of satisfaction at the outcome. Perhaps because of our age difference, we have different expectations.

In my recent release, First Dragon, the novel is the first in a series. Without giving everything away, at the end of the book, everything isn't exactly 'happily ever after.' It's a fantasy world, a vicious war going on, and people get hurt. People die. Battles are lost. There is no wonderful, magical or heroic balm to heal all wounds in the war torn world of Morbunda. Though the last words on the last page are 'The End,' the reader knows it's not the end for the characters who survived so far.

On the other hand in my upcoming science fiction romance, The Marine's Heiress, the readers expect a better outcome for the main characters. Many people, writers and readers, expect a happily ever after ending for a book to be considered a romance. That doesn't mean it's all sweet tea and cupcakes within the book's covers but when the story wraps up, romance novels should have that satisfying ending. The reader imagines the characters going on with their lives and find emotional fulfillment.

When mystery novels or suspense novels end, readers expect all their questions to be answered with no loose ends. Nearly every genre has certain conventions that readers believe will be met when they read a certain kind of book.

Sub genres within genres can have quirks that draw faithful readers to their offerings. Some fantasy lines are darker with more death and anti hero protagonists. Some science fiction lines are known for what we call hard science. Romances get categorized by heat levels, how graphic the sex scenes are.

Don't forget this Wednesday is the first hump day of the month and that means IWSG posts. Find the list of over 300 participants right here.

What conventions do you equate with certain genres? Have you read a book recently that surprised you in a good or bad way at the end? Do you consider genre expectations when you write?

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Dragon TODAY

I'm very proud to announce the release of the first book in my newest epic fantasy series, First Dragon, book #1 of The Morbunda Saga. You can purchase in most online retailers in print or digital edition.

As you can see, the cover my publisher, Crescent Moon Press, designed it perfect. If you read the book, you will love it even more. I've hinted at the story line of this book in some earlier posts, and I intend to continue that today with a little more of the dragon lore I've invented for Morbunda, my fantasy land.

In the ancient history of Morbunda, dragons were common and fed mostly on wildlife though they wouldn't pass up a fat domesticated animal either. Men were multiplying quickly and as their population grew so did their competitiveness. As with many human societies, civil war between rich landowners broke out as their greed overtook their humanity toward their neighbors. The war escalated until the first power hungry man took a dragon into his service. His enemies had no choice but to make similar fool-hardy alliances with the fire breathing creatures. But dragons are clever and soon they learned all they needed to know of men and their weaknesses. That, of course, didn't turn out well for humans. Enough history.

First Dragon takes place many generations of men after that first deadly war ended. Though the book is titled, First Dragon, Kerik actually is the last, true dragon. But he's so much more than that. A dragon at war with his nature and trying to be at peace with men. But again, men have coerced a dragon into their conflicts. Is history repeating itself? I hope you'll check out First Dragon and find out.

All the different buy links are found at Crescent Moon Press.

On another note for today, David Powers King and four other authors are releasing an anthology, The Spirit of Christmas, in honor or NaNo and will help writers reach that amazing goal this month and in years to come. Check it out and help them out.

Did you start NaNo today? How are your word counts adding up on this first day? Need a dragon book to warm up the coming winter months?